A committee of scientists and engineers from around the world have proposed the major 14th challenges in the 21 st century in a document entitled "Grand Challenges for Engineering." They stated that it is very important to address these challenges to ensure a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle of the world's civilizations.
One of the challenges addressed is the challenge of providing access to clean drinking water. In fact, with the world's rapid population growth, the demand of clean water is increasingly becoming one of the most prominent issues in the world. I was astonished to know that thousands of people die because of the lack of clean water. According to the document proposed, about 1 out of every 6 people living today is currently unable to gain access to fresh drinking water, resulting in nearly 5,000 deaths from diseases due to poor water sources, i.e.; diarrhea.
Water current situation
Water is life. It is the crucial ingredient to the sustainability of civilizations and their prosperity. It is vital for domestic, agriculture and industrial purposes. We know that water on Earth should be sufficient to all its creations. Water is about 70% of Earth's surface. However, water is becoming one of the greatest challenges that may cause wars in the near future. Water is enough in some regions while in others there is a drought. The Earth's two poles have mountains of snow, oceans, rivers and inner water in the ground which is sufficient if it is used and divided equally. Many efforts to use this water has been made to develop technologies and to desalinate sea water.
Most countries around the world suffer because of the lack of water sources or the lack of water quality which causes health diseases and consequently deaths. Moreover, this challenge is prominent in the developing world and is a rising problem in some modern countries. The old infrastructure in the developing world is one of the key reasons of water shortage. It has been designed since hundreds of years and much of it is of a poor quality which causes continuous leakage of water.
This leakage may sometimes mix with polluted water and becomes a source of contaminated drinking water. Thus, more improvements and efforts need to take place to face this tremendous challenge. Corporation between the countries and with the successes of engineering in using these waters around the world will definitely lead to various solutions to this challenge.
From my readings about this topic, I found that solutions to provide clean water are everywhere. Some are simple, while others are complicated. For instance, desalination, using sand or bicycles to clean and generate water, recycling and many others. Actually we need all these solutions to be applied to solve this problem. In this essay I will focus on some suggested solutions that have already taken place and that should be done to start helping all people in our world to access clean, healthy water and prevent its severe consequences.
As I stated earlier, oceans contain tremendous amounts of water. Over 97 percent of the earth's water contains salt. One of the current solutions to extract salt from seawater is desalination. This technology is already taking place in some countries like Saudi Arabia. This is a good solution to provide water for domestic and agricultural uses. It can provide clean water and enable such countries to depend on themselves and solve water shortage.
However, this technology needs a big budget and qualified people to achieve it and not all countries have these two conditions. Improvements must be made to make it accessible to all countries. This technology can be one way to solve the problem of water shortage but still not a sufficient solution to this problem.
Wendy Dewolf, in an article entitled "Engineering Clean Water", 2011, writes about a new technology based in Boston for desalinating water by osmosis commercialized as Oasys Watera. This technology is cheaper and sustainable because, as she states, it requires "70 to 85 percent less electrical energy than other seawater desalination systems." Thus, efforts of scientists and engineers are encouraging to have a clean and sustainable worldwide water supply.
People's awareness and usage of water
According to a report published in 2004 by Nicole Abrashinsky, global consumption of water has increased twice as much as the population during the past 20 years. The United Nations has also warned that the demands for access for fresh water are unattainable to more than one billion people.
One solution that I think will greatly help in solving this problem is encouraging people to realize the reality of how serious is the problem of water shortage and cleanness. Unfortunately, lots of people are still not realizing that this is a problem that causes thousands of people to die because they don't have access to clean water. And the other portion of people who know are still careless in using water, thinking that it is not their problem since it doesn't cause them any harm.
Here comes the role of media and especially social media means which has become so influential in the current time. We should educate people and make them aware of the reality of this problem and provide them with the facts and equipment necessary to help them consume water in a modest way. We hear of campaigns in social media to save water here and there, but I think they should be programmed and organized to make them effective.
Some governments offer people with less water consumption a discount on the bell. Other governments finance farmers to dig wells and water canals. However, if everyone of us believes that it is our responsibility to save water, then we will observe ourselves when we use water and think that every drop of water counts.
Nature has the solution for most of our problems, even though we harmed it greatly. Every year we hear of floods and cities got drowned due to hurricanes or storms in almost every region around the world. If we develop technologies to utilize this lost water, these countries will have enough water that will solve part of the problem. One solution that I found amazing in using this lost water is "smart tunnel", i.e., the "Stormwater Management And Road Tunnel". It is a storm drainage and road structure in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and a major national project in the country.
This tunnel received the UN Habitat Scroll of Honour Award for its innovative and unique management of storm water and peak hour traffic. It is the longest multi-purpose tunnel in the world. It reduces the problem of traffic as well as the problem of flash floods. In case of floods, the motorway will be closed to all traffic and the tunnel's gates will open to allow water to pass through. This is excellent way to use the lost water in such conditions and use it for later needs.
Perhaps this solution is difficult to apply because the infrastructure of most cities are difficult to be rebuild. However, in the developing countries the chance to use floods water is more applicable since most of them lack appropriate infrastructure and thus can be financed to store water.
The solutions, as we see, are everywhere to face the challenge of providing access to clean water. For instance, the committee of the NAE has mentioned many other solutions like recycling, small decentralized distillation units, and strategies for reducing water use. However, the solutions should be sustainable and environmental. Professor Menachem Elimelech at Yale University explains that “to address the global water problem for all regions in the world, we need sustainable technologies that consume less energy and chemicals and have lower impact on the environment.”
Some of these solutions may not end this problem, but creativity and determination will always enable people to solve problems. It is our nature to invent and challenge difficulties. Engineering has always empowered us with successes that no one could have imagined they will become a reality. It is our world; it is our life. I invite everyone reads this essay to save water and think of solutions to offer millions of people who lack it a healthy and clean water in their lives.